This year, we went to Bulgaria for the first time. We chose Albena – a small resort on the Black Sea coast – because it was advertised as very family friendly. Chill, without too many distractions (attractions included) and also without unneeded noise, Albena and our chosen hotel, Kaliakra, offered the relaxation we were seeking.
We went to Bulgaria with mixed feelings after reading more about it. The Kaliakra hotel had mixed reviews, there were mixed opinions about Albena itself and Bulgaria as a whole. And since we had never visited Bulgaria before, we were afraid that the negative reviews were actually correct or closer to our feeling of the place.
Fortunately, that was not the case!
We loved Bulgaria, Albena and Hotel Kaliakra. And in today’s article, we’ll focus on the latter, so let’s not waste any time and let’s jump straight into the Hotel Kaliakra review.
Hotel Kaliakra (click the link to book your stay of find out more about it) is a four star hotel offering All Inclusive packages. This was actually one of the main reasons why we went for it: since we’re traveling with a 4-year-old whose eating habits are difficult to anticipate on most occasions, resulting in us spending money on food nobody wants to eat, the idea of All Inclusive accommodation was perfect. No wasted money on food on our side, happy baby on the other and no need for me to eat up stuff he doesn’t want and gain unneeded extra pounds.
Although, if I’m to be honest, I did gain a few extra pounds during my stay at Hotel Kaliakra, but that’s another story…
Back to the hotel, one of its biggest selling points is that all of its rooms offer a beautiful sea view. The hotel itself is right near the beach, in a beautiful area: green hills behind it, amazing golden sand and the beautiful Black Sea in front. Pretty amazing, indeed!
The architecture of the hotel itself is not impressive and seeing the building from outside doesn’t tell you much. Fortunately, things are better inside.
It has two large pools, plus one fairly sized one for kids. The pool areas were never too crowded, despite the hotel being (or at least appearing to be) fully booked.
It has one large restaurant with a nice terrace overlooking the pools and showing a glimpse of the sea as well. Getting a table there was pretty difficult at times. It also has a small Pool Restaurant where they serve snacks from 11 to 4 PM – stuff like hamburgers/hot dogs, pizza, sandwiches, waffles, fruits and cakes and ice-cream.
There are also various bars where you can get free drinks – the ones included in the AI package are not of the best quality, though, but at least you have enough variety and quality to stay happy or at least mostly happy.
The staff is extremely helpful and friendly. They have a great team of animators who speak multiple languages and do a great job at keeping the guests – both adults and kids – entertained throughout the day. There are also shows in the evening, but we never went so I can’t comment on their quality. Obviously, you shouldn’t expect Broadway quality…
Kaliakra Hotel has two types of rooms: Standard and Superior. I didn’t do my homework well before choosing the higher priced Superior rooms: I actually thought that there are two hotels, Kaliakra and Kaliakra Superior. It’s just one hotel though, with the Superior rooms being larger and offering a more frontal view of the Black Sea.
It was really nice indeed, but I wouldn’t have minded to save some extra money on the room since we really didn’t need all that extra space and by the looks of it, all rooms had a great sea view anyway… I spent more hoping for slightly better quality in all areas, but that isn’t the case. It’s my bad, though, not the hotel’s.
The room itself was huge, but the bed wasn’t ideal. Instead of one large Queen- or King-sized bed, there were two twin beds close to each other. This means that you don’t get a single mattress, so there’s an empty area going right through the middle of the bed.
There is also a decently-sized sofa in the room which can also be used as a single bed.
The room also has a desk, a minibar with a few beverages inside which were free once, a small table and two chairs. The terrace is large enough to hold a clothes dryer, as well as a table with two chairs.
The bathroom area was pretty interesting. There is a huge sliding door which can separate it from the rest of the studio, but we never closed it.
The sink and towels are there, while the toiled and the shower had their own space and doors. An interesting setup that definitely helps when it comes to getting ready for the beach or hitting the restaurants.
Another reason why I chose the Superior room (thinking it was a different hotel in a completely different building) was the food. I thought that paying a bit more means that we get a “Superior” restaurant as well, but that’s not the case. All the guests of the hotel eat the same food.
The food itself is varied and you always have something to choose from. Something tasty, I might add.
For breakfast, you can choose from all sorts of cereals, cold cuts, baked goodies and pastries, vegetables and cookies. They’re always cooking something on the go – scrambled eggs, fried eggs with bacon, waffles and crepes. You also get a fair set of toppings for them all, as well as freshly made lemonade and orange juice.
For lunch and dinner you had similar stuff: there were always two types of soups available (they changed them from lunch to dinner) and a whole lot of cooked dishes. Vegetables cooked in various ways, all sorts of potatoes (fried, baked, pureed), various types of meat – chicken, pork, veal and fish – and all sorts of salads. You always had a fair share of fruits to choose from, as well as cakes.
Twice, there were themed evenings: a Mexican one (with tortillas, quesadillas, chili con carne and similar stuff) and a Seafood theme with lobsters, shrimp, mussels and such.
On two occasions they also cooked food on the grill near the pool and it tasted great!
In conclusion, it was impossible to go hungry during your stay at Hotel Kaliakra. Even the pickiest eaters could’ve found at least a thing or two to eat there and enjoy it. They even advertised in a few places that the vegetables, fruits, veal meat and honey were all organically grown.
I am not 100% sure that was the case – “locally” grown and “all natural” were also used in the text which I only read once, but they definitely tasted great and looked amazing.
Overall, though, the quality of the food wasn’t of the highest standard. That’s usually the case of All Inclusive restaurants, where they must keep costs under control. This means that some of the food was very greasy and with a bit too much salt, so that it fills you faster. The cakes were generally very sweet for the same reasons and most of the cakes tasted almost the same despite looking slightly different.
We’ve seen much better food in Turkey for example – where we would pay a similar amount for staying at a 5 star resort. Definitely much better food, with a lot more time invested in the presentation of the said dishes – and sometimes it’s also these small things that make a big difference.
But overall, the food was good. We never had any tummy problems, which is something I always fear, so I am extremely satisfied. I also ate way more than I should’ve – as it usually happens when you’re on vacation, and I wouldn’t have eaten that much if the food was bad.
Beach & Pools
I’ll start with the beach because we spend most of our time there. You can imagine – and see in the photos why. It was absolutely beautiful. Serene. Spectacular and insanely relaxing.
The beach was never too crowded. It was clean and silent: no beach bars blasting their tunes to drive you crazy, no wandering sellers trying to sell you their crap… it was perfect.
The hotel offered free lounge chairs and a large umbrella to their guests, but you had to pay a bit for getting mattresses for the chairs. Many people were using the chairs without a mattress and we did the same. From what I saw, probably just 10% of the guests actually paid for the mattress, so it’s definitely not something that brings a lot of money to the coffers and a practice that I would consider strange at least.
And it wasn’t expensive either: something like 1.5 Euros per mattress, if I remember correctly (or even less). For a hotel that basically gives you the chance to drink and eat continuously since morning to late at night, you would think that giving out those mattresses would’ve been included in the price… but it was not.
However, this was definitely not something to ruin the vacation, especially in such tranquil places.
Even better, if you had nothing to do – read especially, there was the Albena Beach Library nearby where you could rent a book to read. They had books in English, German, Romanian and I think French as well, and the titles on offer were really varied.
The pools were really beautiful as well and never crowded. We spent less time there, but when we were there, we loved it. You had two pool bars nearby for easy refills (there was no beach bar, but since the hotel was right across the street, you could easily go to the pool bars for drinks and snacks). Strangely enough, you had no mattresses on the lounge chairs either, and no option to get one even if you wanted to. Strange.
The pools were not heated and even though a sign said that the water in the pools was thermal and very hot, I really doubt it – at least the hot part. The water wasn’t cold either, it was just good for a swim, and it got even better in the evening.
Overall, I was extremely satisfied with our stay at Hotel Kaliakra in Albena. Even better, I was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming the Bulgarians are. It was definitely a case – at least for us – for the bad reviews to have nothing to do with the reality there.
Albena itself is a very small resort with little things to do apart from enjoying the beautiful beach and recharging your batteries under the sun, but Hotel Kaliakra definitely makes the stay extremely enjoyable. Definitely recommended for families and those looking for a more chilled out place for relaxation and being close to nature.
Want to book your stay at hotel Kaliakra? Click here to do so through Booking.com!
We would definitely visit Bulgaria again and we’d clearly pick Hotel Kaliakra once more. I’d go for a Standard room next time, because we really didn’t need all that extra space that the Superior ones offer… but I’d go there again for sure!
What about you? Have you visited Bulgaria or Albena so far? Would you like to?